Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who nearly assassinated Pope John Paul II in May 1981, says he has converted to Catholicism.
Agca announced his conversion in a letter written from a Turkish prison, according to a report posted by Cathnews.
Agca gravely wounded John Paul in the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square. The late Pope credited the intercession of Mary for the fact that bullets fired at close range from Agca’s gun narrowly missed John Paul’s vital organs as they pierced his body, sparing his life.
John Paul visited Agca in prison in December 1983 and forgave him publicly for the attack.
In the new letter, according to Cathnews, Agca stated, “I am looking for an Italian woman, who wants to correspond with me. Obviously (I hope) she is Catholic because from May 13, 2007, I decided to renounce the Muslim faith and becoming a member of the Roman Catholic Church.”
“I have decided to return peacefully to the square and to testify to the world of my conversion to Catholicism,” Agca wrote. “Just for a day, I would wish to return to Rome to pray at the tomb of John Paul II to express my filial appreciation for his forgiveness.”
The legitimacy of Agca’s claimed conversion is not known. Cathnews notes, “Questioned by AFP in Turkey, his former lawyer Mustafa Demirbag, said he was ‘very skeptical’ about the conversion, given the steps required to receive baptism.”